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Players scoff at trumpeting of labor 'agreement'

Jason Cole
Yahoo Sports

ATLANTA – Don't send those checks for season tickets just yet.

The initial euphoria from the 31-0 vote by NFL owners to approve a proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement was met with a thud by many people on the players' side.

Shortly after the league announced its decision, the NFL Players Association fired off an email to the 32 player representatives of each team making it clear that "there is no agreement between the NFL and the Players at this time." Before any agreement can be reached, a simple majority of players must vote to both recertify the NFLPA as a union and approve the owners' proposal.

That process has yet to start. The four-months plus impasse that has engulfed the NFL isn't over. The question now is how fast the players will react to what is essentially a 10-year, take-it-or-leave-it offer.

The league even added an enticement, promising to lift the lockout on Saturday and open the doors to training facilities to all players under contract if the NFLPA's executive committee gave an initial approval advising the rest of the players to approve the deal when the NFLPA re-certifies as a union.

To put this in terms that most folks can understand: the NFL is like someone who is selling a home. The catch is the buyer doesn't get to have the place inspected before he signs on the bottom line.

That doesn't mean what the NFL has offered won't be deemed acceptable to the players. It just hasn't been yet.

On Thursday night, NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith held a conference call with the 32 team reps. Neither the player reps nor the executive committee voted on the proposal. However, the NFLPA will have to take some action by Friday to open the doors on Saturday.

All of this led to a chain reaction of concern by players. Veteran fullback Heath Evans(notes) tweeted roughly an hour after the league's announcement that: "Here is what the 'Real' fans need to know: The owners tried to slip many things in to the CBA ‘they' voted on that were NEVER agreed to!#PRPlay."

Another NFLPA source told Yahoo's Michael Silver in reaction to the move by the owners, "They will never learn." If backed into a corner, the players could react badly.

Again, this doesn't mean that a deal is dead, but it's certainly in a curious state. While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, attorney Jeff Pash and a quartet of owners led by John Mara of the New York Giants tried to put a good face on this situation, it was quickly squelched by the hissing on the players' side.

In fact, Goodell's opening statement was decidedly leading, making it seem as if this proposal was done. Goodell went so far as to use the word "agreement" even though there isn't one.

"With this ratification and with the ratification of the NFLPA board, we will be prepared to open the training facilities beginning on Saturday, this Saturday," Goodell said. "We will then be prepared to start the new league year next Wednesday subject to the full membership of the players ratifying the agreement and recertifying as a union. Obviously you know that we're all under a time constraint. That's one of the reasons we worked to get this agreement completed tonight."

Again, nothing is complete and the indication that it is done was downright offensive to some players.

There also was a problem with some of the NFLPA's complaints. For instance, Smith expressed concern that the owners had agreed on a new revenue-sharing plan on how to split money among teams. While Smith can express concern, it's not the business of the NFLPA how the owners split the money they get among themselves. The NFLPA gets to only negotiate what its share of the overall pie can be.

The 10-year offer also appears to give players plenty of things that they wanted. That includes a 48 percent split of the gross. It includes new rules on the salary cap, limitations on pay for top draft picks and the possibility of lifetime medical coverage.

The league also hoped to get business started as soon as possible. In addition to allowing players under contract to start work Saturday, the NFL said that teams can begin negotiations with their own free agents and draft picks this weekend. Contracts can be agreed upon (but not signed) in the interim.

Beyond that, the league cleared the way for veteran free agents from other teams and undrafted rookies to begin talking to teams as early as Saturday. In essence, the "tampering" that usually goes on behind the scenes is allowed for this year.

While that sounds good, it could also be interpreted as a ploy. Once players are allowed back in the building or get tempted by a contract offer, it may entice them to vote for the agreement. Once the ball gets rolling toward an agreement, it might not stop.

Throw in the fact that this is an agreement that includes no opt-out for either side (both sides would be locked in for the duration), the players need to proceed carefully.

Of course, the players could be the type of people who buy a house without getting an inspection.

Don't look for that to happen.


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